Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Reflections on the Synopsis

On Euangelion, Michael Bird has a useful Review of the New Edition of Aland's Synopsis of the Four Gospels (when he says "new", that's 2001). It is encouraging to hear that Mike gets students in class looking at the Synopsis, and that's a good reason for recommending the Greek-English edition. Here at Duke, the undergraduates in my classes rarely have Greek and so one has to work from English synopses (and I create my own for them). I would add, though, that it's good for second year Greek students to work with a Greek-only Synopsis, to take away the prop. And for those students, I'd recommend either the fifteenth edition of Aland, which includes the Gospel of Thomas in an appendix, or the underrated Huck-Greeven. Graduate students should own at least one of those and preferably both.

One opportunity for general comment presents itself here and I cannot resist taking that opportunity. I am convinced that one of the reasons for the widespread scholarly difficulties in dealing with the Synoptic Problem, and with understanding Synoptic data, is their failure to spend any time working with the Synopsis. I am not talking about casual glances, but detailed, meticulous study, ideally with colouring. Of course there are many exceptions to this, but I often find that when I talk to other NT scholars, there is no point in their student life, either as undergraduate or post-graduate students, or subsequently in their careers, when they have done any serious work with the Synopsis.

One brief and more specific comment on the closing of Mike's post:
A note of advice (originating from Mark Goodacre), if you are going to colour code or mark the pages of a Synopsis such as this, then make sure that you photocopy it first just in case you change your mind from which source you think a certain text belongs to!
Thanks for the mention. Yes, I always recommend that, and I print out my own Synopses for undergraduate students to colour. But I would discourage colouring in line with "which source you think a certain text belongs to". For me, colouring takes place prior to decisions about sources; it's a source-neutral exercise. So what one is doing when one is colouring is to find a clear and helpful way of representing the data in order to help one out with decisions about sources. The best kind of Synopsis-colouring is not about assigning to sources but is about isolating patterns of agreement and disagreement.


Chris said...

I'd love to see a scanned picture of one of your color-coded pages. Any chance of putting that on the blog one day?

Mark Goodacre said...

Hi Chris. Go to http://ntgateway.com/maze/synopses.htm and click on examples of "ready coloured version". These are English only.